Beers lovers in Colorado could try a different brewery or brewpub in the state nearly every day for a year, according to new numbers from the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Colorado’s on track to have one of its best years for adding new breweries. The state’s promoter of craft brewers and beers said Thursday that as of Aug. 1 there were 358 breweries and brewpubs from Wellington to Trinidad.
“If we close the books today, 2016 would be the third best year for brewery openings in Colorado. We’ve had 44 new licenses so far in 2016,” said Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Business Research Division.
The best year for openings was 2013 when the state licensed 71 new breweries, Lewandowski said.
Lewandoski helps draft the guild’s annual report on the economic impact of craft beer. The latest report was released Thursday and shows craft beer was a $1.7 billion industry in Colorado in 2015. That’s up about 48 percent or $550 million from 2014.
The Boulder-based Brewers Association ranks Colorado as the fifth-largest craft beer market in the country by economic impact. The state beer scene still has room to grow, said Steve Kurowski spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild.
“I don’t think we’re saturated from the neighborhood brewery standpoint. There’s still a lot of cities, a lot of towns and a lot of neighborhoods that don’t have a brewery yet,” Kurowski said.
“Is there room for breweries to be able to be the next 30,000 barrel a year and above brewery that puts beers on shelves in Colorado and several other states? Those opportunities are probably dwindling.”
The growing craft beer industry is also facing new challenges from grocery stores getting the OK to sell beer and more competition in the marketplace.
“When you’re a $1.7 billion industry, not everything is going to be roses,” Kurowski said. “Craft beer is obviously attracting the eyes and attention of global brewers, and we’re seeing what’s happening with that.”
The competition and acquisitions from beer giants like AB Inbev and MillerCoors are causing some craft brewers in the industry to have anxiety, Kurowski said.
Acquisitions like Anheuser-Busch buying Breckenridge Brewery were one of the main issues raised after the state’s largest brewers broke off from the Colorado Brewers Guild this summer and started their own organization.
“It’s still a very fluid situation, but there’s a high level of interest in having one voice for craft beer in Colorado,” Kurowski said. “We have our legislation session coming up in January, and I think our industry wants to be prepared and organized for that session.”
The fine folks at Westword reported Wednesday that the Colorado Brewers Guild and the new spin-off group Craft Beer Colorado will try to patch up their differences Oct. 7 during the Great American Beer Festival.